A Tough Time For Brave Voices

I’m not brave, at least in the sense that others are. I’ve got nothing at risk. I can’t be fired or canceled, and so anything I have to say that fails to meet the approval of the unduly passionate has little risk associated with it. The same can’t be said for those who are willing to put their butts on the line, everything at risk as the bonfires grow larger.

Lara Bazelon, who called out Kamala Harris’ attempt to reinvent her “cop” reality so she could grift the progressives by being a black woman, was reduced to “that woman” by Harris as “tough interviewer” Anderson Cooper bowed and scraped to her holiness. When asked, Harris simply replied that it’s just not true, to which Cooper nods dutifully.

There’s a decent chance that Harris is going to end up as Biden’s vice presidential choice, for no better reason than her race and gender, and those who are slaves to the simplistic will applaud with all their might. Bazelon violated the dictates of the orthodoxy by calling out the lie. She’s a trial advocacy prawf at the University of San Francisco and runs their criminal and racial justice clinic. Lara took the risk. Lara has her position on the line. Lara is brave.

So too are the feminist lawprofs at Harvard, who bucked the orthodoxy on the new Title IX rules.

The move set off a liberal uproar, denounced by unions representing teachers and college professors, by the National Organization for Women and by an array of Democratic senators. The Trump rules, they said, constitute a radical rollback of protections for victims who seek justice after sexual assaults.

But Ms. DeVos’s actions won praise from a surprising audience: an influential group of feminist legal scholars who applauded the administration for repairing what they viewed as unconscionable breaches in the rights of the accused.

From the ACLU to the usual array of Democratic representatives and senators, every trick in the book is being used to prevent the rules from going into effect in the hope that a Biden win in November will mean the rules will be reversed and we’ll return to the days when male students were presumed guilty and “survivors” could rejoice at being able to vindicate their feelings without every being questioned. What sort of feminist wouldn’t support such an inquisition? This sort.

“The new system is vastly better and fairer,” said Prof. Janet Halley, who specializes in gender and sexuality at Harvard Law School. “The fact that we’re getting good things from the Trump administration is confusing, but isn’t it better than an unbroken avalanche of bad things?”

And this sort.

“I’m a feminist, but I’m also a defense attorney who recognizes the importance of due process,” said Prof. Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge and lecturer in law at Harvard, who opposed the Obama-era rules. “These are fences I’ve straddled all my life.”

And this sort.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said in speeches and interviews that the Obama-era regulations deny due process and a fair hearing to the accused. Nadine Strossen, a past president of the American Civil Liberties Union, said on a National Review podcast that the new regulations from Ms. DeVos represented “a step forward in due process for everybody.”

And this sort.

Jeannie Suk Gersen and her husband, Jacob E. Gersen, also Harvard professors, have joined in the critique of Title IX. They wrote a law review article critiquing the creation of a federal “sex bureaucracy,” which they said leveraged “sexual violence and harassment policy to regulate ordinary sex.” Professor Suk Gersen’s assessment of the DeVos changes appeared in The New Yorker.

Each of these people are brave. Harvard students believe themselves to be extremely tolerant, provided no idea that doesn’t align with the dogma of the moment is ever expressed. Each of these Harvard prawfs is taking a risk, both of being deemed pariahs on the job like another Harvard lawprof, Ronald Sullivan, who got his comeuppance for not subjugating himself to the Yard Mob. Not even fellow Harvard prawf Randall Kennedy could save him, despite a valiant effort.

There are few more contested cultural battlegrounds than college campuses and the rules that govern sexual misconduct and due process, and thorny questions of how to define sexual consent.

Most often this battle is framed as Left versus Right, feminist against traditionalist. But that is to miss a fierce and complicated struggle within feminist and liberal circles.

Having been involved in trying to address this “cultural battleground” for years, I’ve been called a great many names, from rape apologist to misogynist to neocon, because what else would you call a white male on the wrong side of the cultural divide? And it rarely mattered, since getting called names is pretty much what criminal defense lawyers and old-school liberals expect these days, unwilling to flex our principles to fit into the latest fashion trend of that most illiberal of ideologies, progressivism. And no one does, or should, feel bad for me. I’ve got broad shoulders and nothing to lose except the adoration of the woke baby lawyers. I will survive.

Will these brave woman, brave academics, be able to weather the storm? And I would be remiss not to mention one of the bravest of feminists, Emily Yoffe, who has suffered great outrage for being smart, rational and unwilling to bow to the mob.

And what if all these voices were silenced, were canceled, so that no one would ever hear or learn that there are smart, brave people with reasonable, factual and rational arguments to offer? Is that what would happen if the mob got its way, just as it’s made Christina Hoff Sommer’s a right wing pariah despite the strength of her views about women?

After all, if you never heard them, never knew women with their credibility and credentials existed, you would be left to believe that no one challenged the hysterical mob. Except maybe some old white male like me, not that I matter.

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